Gays in Cameroon, and we thought we had it bad

By Eric Beauchemin

In Cameroon, homosexual acts are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine. Over 30 people have been arrested in Cameroon over the past two years on charges of homosexuality. The number may sound small for a country of 16 million people, but the arrests have created tremendous fear among the Central African nation’s gays.

logo for the LGBT group in Cameroon who helped to secure his release
One of the men who recently served time for being gay is 22-year-old Lorenzo. In September of last year, two policemen arrested him at the beauty salon where he worked and told him he was being charged with embezzlement.

He recounts:
“They took me to the police station, and it was there that I discovered that I hadn’t been arrested for embezzlement but for statutory rape and homosexuality. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to do. And then they threw me and five other guys who were also gay in prison. We weren’t tried and I was never sentenced. We were just put in prison as if we were wild animals.”
Prison lifeLorenzo and the other five men spent a total of seven months in jail. They were all in the same cell and were rarely allowed out. Everyone in the prison, both the guards and the inmates, knew they were gay.
“Some of the prisoners called us ugly women and faggots all the time. They’d say you shouldn’t be alive. They’d hit us and throw water at us. We were tortured. They tried to rape us. We couldn’t leave our cell to get fresh air because we were afraid the big boys would threaten and hurt us. Some of the guards would make fun of us too. They thought we deserved to go to hell. We really couldn’t leave our cell. It was like being in a prison within a prison.”
A free man? When Lorenzo was released, he had no money and nowhere to go. He moved back in with his mother and brothers and sisters. They only discovered that he was gay when he was jailed. “My relationship with my family now is difficult.

They watch me closely. They don’t accept it when my friends come to visit me at home. My mother says they’re all gay, even though some of them aren’t. She thinks I’m possessed. Every day she calls me a homosexual. I feel rejected. I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m really at my wits end. I have to start my life again from zero. I have nothing and I have no one to help me.”

Lorenzo, a gay man from Cameroon >>>>>>>>

Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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